It's gone virtually unnoticed but for the first time in many years, Sydney truly rules the NRL.
Each of the top four teams on the ladder and seven of the top eight from the NSW capital - only the rejuvenated Broncos in sixth are preventing a Sydney monopoly on the ladder. This dominance is reflected in the Power Rankings with the seven highest-rated teams residing in the Harbour City, Emerald City, Sin City, Syd-ah-nee.
The city's big revival has been in the west where the Panthers, Tigers and Eels have joined Canterbury, Manly, Souths and the Roosters in the playoff mix.
Penrith's fans, notoriously fickle despite the region's unparalleled junior base, have been slow to jump on their team's bandwagon but turned out in force last weekend to witness he emphatic victory over Parramatta in the western derby. And they should stick with this team - Supercoach Cleary's squad is in second spot and challenging the Bulldogs for the mantle of hottest team in the NRL as we hurtle towards next weekend's halfway mark of the season.
1. Bulldogs (last week 1): Origin-hobbled centre Josh Morris will be a massive loss but supercoach Hasler has the luxury of a top-notch replacement up his sleeve in Krisnan Inu.
2. Panthers (5): Rising winger Josh Mansour is ready for Origin. His two tries against Parramatta were just reward for yet another busy match. Yep, that's right. A winger who likes doing the hard yards. That's what you need in Origin where no team can ever carry passengers.
3. Roosters (4): Not since the almost totally snubbed Wests Tigers of 2005 has there been reigning premiers who've been so unscathed at Origin time. It showed last week when they put away the Raiders and it can be a feather in their cap over the representative period when most of the other top teams are affected much worse. If indeed Roosters would wear feathers in their caps - it might come across as glorifying self-mutilation.
4. Rabbitohs (6): The 29-10 walk in the park over the Dragons on Monday night was a good sign for supercoach Maguire. The Burgess brothers and the lesser lights were at the fore, allowing Origin stars Greg Inglis, Chris McQueen and Ben Te'o to stay in cruise control after backing up from Queensland duty.
5. Sea Eagles (2): Treading water mid-season due to a heavy injury toll. Sunday's 26-point loss in Brisbane matters little in the big picture.
6. Eels (3): Some Parramatta fans weren't happy with supercoach Arthur's decision to rest Jarryd Hayne last week with no actual injury to report after his stellar Origin display. However, to paraphrase Vincent Vega, you don't push a racecar when it's close to the edge and Hayne, the Ferrari in the blue and gold garage, was a red-linin' Parra fella.
7. Broncos (8): Halfback Ben Hunt looked like he follow a similar path to another young Broncos half of 10 years ago in Brett Seymour - star in the junior ranks, be tipped for a bright future but struggle to cement a spot at NRL level as the weight of expectation becomes too much. Hunt looks like he's finally taken ownership of this team and his confidence is manifesting itself in some impressive wins like Sunday's victory over Manly.
8. Cowboys (9): They're improving but let's not disregard the fact they couldn't have drawn Melbourne at a better time - three days after Origin with Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater out of action and Cameron Smith playing on fumes and one good ankle.
9. Storm (7): The 22-0 loss in Townsville was to be expected. Cronk and Slater won't be back soon and with the team ninth after an indifferent first half of the season, a home final will be a top-four berth will be a long shot in 2014.
10. Warriors (11): off field, how can Jim Doyle remain NRL chief operating officer for the rest of the year when it's public knowledge he will be Warriors chief executive next season? Surely that's a conflict of interest, at the very least it will put him in a difficult position if any big-picture issues lob at head office this season regarding the Auckland club.
11. Tigers (10): Had the bye, nothing to see here.
12. Titans (12): Bye.
13. Dragons (13): Why on earth did St George Illawarra brush the chance to give Benji Marshall a run in NSW Cup during the bye week. As he showed on Monday in his error-addled display in the ordinary loss to Souths, he is a long way away from being match fit or being back to the skill level required to cut it at NRL level.
16. Sharks (14): Bye. The best thing they did for their place on the pecking order last week was not play.
15. Raiders (15): There almost appears an air of resignation already in the national capital about another mediocre season ending well short of the finals cut-off.
14. Knights (16): Supercoach Bennett was cranky even for him after the 38-18 loss in Auckland. Don't expect to see him upgrade his mood to the best-case scenario of moderately annoyed any time soon with this roster.